I was led into mystery this year through a study on the psycho-spiritual inspiration of three saints – Francis of Assisi, Hildegard of Bingen and Ignatius of Loyola. As an expression of my interest in spirituality and mental health, I investigated the mental health related factors that enabled the saints to ‘burst out in praise’ in the midst of pain or suffering. My findings included a psycho-spiritual development scale, factors of psycho-spiritual development and a representative diagram.
Early on, I thought that this ‘bursting out in praise’ – also called the psycho-spiritual inspiration – meant a real Hallelujah moment where everybody would hear a joyful acclamation. While I do not deny that this can be the case, I began to understand the process as less obvious at first glance. Francis was known to have lived with two levels of experiences: one was at a surface level and another was at a deeper level. He experienced his own turmoil and anguish and the darkness of the world while at the same time he felt deep peace knowing that his pain or suffering was held secure by the goodness of the love of ‘God’. Continue reading “Enjoy life!”
I finished my last blog post saying: “and do what you need to do in order to be fully awake to your emerging dreams!” To develop this thought a little, I find it useful to look at three factors.
The first factor – embracing the real – is actually pretty cool. In today’s culture it is easy to get bogged down on the ideal out of a want to be perfect. We may reach this incredibly high standard at times, but constantly striving for it will inevitably lead to disappointment and a sense of being distant from our deeply-felt desires.
If we find ourselves getting lost, we can refocus on our real and burning issues such as relationship difficulties, achieving our goals, and wanting to help others. In this way we can make a real difference in our messy, imperfect world. And we are more likely to genuinely rejoice and to tap into the energy stream of our dreams. Continue reading “Go for it!”
Last week my article on faith and mental health featured in the online British journal Thinking Faith, and it inspired me to create a new ‘Free flow’ section. Also, since I don’t have a lot of time at the moment to write more serious blog posts, I figure that quickly written posts would serve readers best for now. So here I go…
An important first step when a person suffers with their mental health is to return to familiar people and surroundings that make them feel safe and secure. They may think that they are inadequate to do such a thing, believing it is possible to ground themselves anywhere, but it’s best to accept their weak, vulnerable position and do what is right. After a while of being with their loved ones, they’ll get the strength and nourishment needed to go further along their journey. Continue reading “It’s a journey!”
Relax, oh little one,
we are the flowing magis,
and a whole lot more.
A characteristic of Jesuit spirituality called magis comes to mind for this month’s blog post. Magis is the Latin term for ‘more’ or ‘greater’ and it’s about responding to the needs of the more universal good so that others may connect with it too. It would be a mistake to think it’s about being busy people with busy lives, a focus on quantity, getting as many things done as possible. Often, as we know less is more. Continue reading “Balanced energy”
I went to a play about bipolar called In Two Minds at Belltable Theatre in Limerick City on 12 January. Drawn from a true story, it focused on the relationship between a mother with bipolar and her daughter in a caring role, as they lived together for a chaotic 6 weeks. Although the short time period was fictional, everything actually happened at one point or another, for example, the mother’s high and overexcited episodes as well as her low and despairing ones were all very real. Writer, producer and actor Joanne Ryan, also the real-life daughter, realised that her story didn’t have to reflect everyone’s experience to be helpful. More important for her was that the play stimulated a conversation around mental health. Her work inspired me to focus on Balanced Relationships for this month’s blog post.
As mentioned in a previous post entitled Relationship difficulties, I have struggled a lot in this area as a result of my condition. At one point, a disagreement, an uncomfortable silence, or a raw tension tipped me over the edge towards insomnia, anxiety, and extreme moods. Over the course of my recovery, I became to realise that accepting the reality of interpersonal frustrations and smiling like the Buddha were good things to do. Regarding my relationship with mental health professionals, I showed up at their door with open hands in a state of desperation and humility. Some simply did their job and assisted me. Others were ‘helpers’ in the best sense of the word – they respected and treasured my vulnerability which made all the difference to my health and humanity. One helper said to me: “It was an honour and privilege to have collaborated with you”. Continue reading “Balanced relationships”
From Old English ‘mod’ meaning frame of mind, mood is integrally related to our feelings and emotions, which as we know can be stirred up at a moment’s notice. My feelings were stirred up from a recent conversation with a psychotherapist. We were discussing being practitioners in the psycho-spiritual field: I told him that people can be overly-emotional at times, wallowing in their feelings, wallowing in their misery. “Can they not try a different approach?” From his experience, he said there was no such thing as being overly-emotional, that clients can express what they want to express and just let it out.
Our disagreement hit a nerve of mine and I pondered on our thoughts for some length. Another feeling was stirred up when a spiritual companion said it was good to get some distance from our feelings at times such as when we become sad over someone not replying to our emails: if we hold onto these feelings, then this sets us on a trajectory of desolation. “So, what is the truth in all of this?,” I thought. Here we are: me, the psychotherapist, and the spiritual companion with different opinions. Where can we look to for clarity and wisdom? Continue reading “Balanced mood”
As I ponder this month’s topic on Balanced Lifestyle, I recall something important from my time learning how to drive on the roads of Dublin. Whenever I came to a STOP sign on the road, I put my foot on the brakes and repeated to myself: “S…T…O…P.” Then I continued driving on my merry way. In the same vein, this is what I need to do when I come to the STOP signs of my life. I need to respect myself enough to pause at junctures and to move forward with energy and vitality.
These past few weeks have been challenging on my lifestyle as requests for more work have steadily increased. In fact, I was in demand for the first time in my life: to write a booklet on mental health for parishes and to write an article for the British Jesuits. I tried to make the most of a series of reflections on Ireland’s national radio which I had the privilege to present, and I kept to a rigorous 6-day schedule. Eventually, I found myself becoming fatigued and a slave to life – surely not a good sign. I came to a point where I felt like giving everything up. Continue reading “Balanced lifestyle”